Covideodrome: Extraction (2020)

Some great single-shot action scenes but a poor script

A temporary replacement for TMINE’s Orange Thursday feature in which I review a readily available movie you’ve probably already seen

The second of TMINE’s new Covideodrome movie review feature – aka “We watching whatever’s available and we don’t have to pay for” – is Extraction (2020), Netflix’s latest big budget movie, which stars Chris Hemsworth. Here’s the plot:

A hardened mercenary’s mission becomes a soul-searching race to survive when he’s sent into Bangladesh to rescue a drug lord’s kidnapped son

Netflix

Adapted by Joe Russo from his and his brother’s (yes, those Russo Brothers) graphic novel of the same name and directed by their long-time stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave, it’s predicted to be Netflix’s biggest ever premiere, with 90 million households watching it. But should you?

Here’s a trailer to help you decide, with a review coming not long afterwards.

TMINE verdict

The ‘single take’ approach to direction has had something of a resurgence in the past decade. Originally more or less the only way to make films, the ability to cut up film and then stick it with another piece of film – aka ‘editing’ – soon enabled film-makers to get rid of bits they didn’t want, remove mistakes and jump from location to location in the narrative, seemingly in an instant.

But in an age of movies that last up two hours, single-take filmmaking became almost impossible. Alfred Hitchcock gave it a whirl with Rope (1948).

But it’s not his best and no one really wanted to do anything more with the technique, even for the sake of novelty, for a long time – although Kathryn Bigelow gave us a sense of its power in Point Break (1991).

It was TV that revived it as a way of creating immediacy and excitement. HBO’s True Detective gave us the first brave stab at it. Netflix’s Daredevil then picked up the mantle, offering us a ‘single shot’ fight scene every season.

Canada’s 19-2 gave us probably the best example of the single shot action scene, with second season opener School giving us an entire act that was a single-shot, with director Podz using the technique again in the first season of Cardinal.

And Netflix’s Haunting of Hill House used it to terrifying effect as well with a 17-minute single shot scene.

Since then, it’s returned to the movies, most famously with 1917 (2019).

This is a rather lengthy preamble to inform you of a fact you’ve probably already guessed: Extraction contains a number of single-take action scenes, including one that lasts a full 12 minutes.

What you might not have guessed is that that’s more or less the only reason for watching it.

Extract me from this

Like a huge number of Netflix action movies before it, Extraction is as much concerned with social justice as it is with excitement. This is possibly not a good thing, since rather than take it as read that there are some bad guys that need killing and a good guy who needs to kill them, Extraction is painfully diligent in giving all its Bangladeshi characters extensive back story and characterisation – rather than, you know, doing exciting things.

Now there is a lot of excitement to be had in Extraction. There is that main ‘single shot’ scene (it really isn’t and you can spot a lot of the joins, but it’s close), of course, but there are plenty of separate shoot-outs and hand-to-hand fights, some of which are also one-shots, albeit shorter. These are really very fine, too – I’m a big fan of Hargrave’s stunt co-ordination on the likes of Captain America: Civil War (2016), for example.

It’s just that everything in between them is very painfully cliched. Hemsworth, here allowed to keep his Australian accent for a change, how to escort a drug dealer’s kid out of the country, and before you can say Mandalorian, he’s no longer doing it for the money, but has become all shades of altruistic. Meanwhile, all the usual suspects do all the double-crosses you might expect. And since everything is so geared up to social justice, you can bet that some of the bad guys might possibly turn out to be good guys after all. Because they’re poor, etc, etc.

It’s all very, very clunky and I almost found myself snoozing off as Hemsworth spends yet another scene soul-searching and (metaphorically) patting the kid on the head.

If you can make it through the attempts at human history and characterisation, Extraction has a lot to commend. Hemsworth is an enjoyable lead and Randeep Hooda a worthy adversary. I also enjoyed the fact that this isn’t John Wick – Hemsworth isn’t indestructible and is slowly beaten down into a pulp over the course of the movie by his accumulating injuries.

But you’re going to be both patient and adrenaline junkie at the same time to truly enjoy Extraction – which I suspect is a tall order for most people.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.
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